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Discussions in the Workplace

Guilty of all charges! Derek Chauvin is guilty of all charges! I have to be honest, I never thought I would see the day when Chauvin was found guilty and convicted of murder. Not that I didn’t believe he was guilty, but because of the countless times, police officers have not been held accountable for the crimes they have committed against people of color.

On the day we are supposed to rejoice that Chauvin is being held accountable for the murder of George Floyd, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed at the hands of the police in Columbus, Ohio. This shooting happened about 30 minutes before the verdict was delivered. Black people breathed a collective sigh of relief that Chauvin was found guilty, yet the Columbus community was subjected to another police shooting. When will it end? On one hand, we are supposed to rejoice for “justice”. Yet, we are fighting for our lives every day, literally and figuratively.

There are many mixed emotions with the Chauvin verdict. However, there were even more emotions when George Floyd was killed in May of 2020. Emotions are high every time this happens. Sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, hopelessness are just a few emotions that come to mind. But as Black people, we have mixed emotions every day. And since we are human, those emotions can trickle into the workplace.

What do you do as a Black person in corporate America? One minute we are at a rally chanting "Black lives matter" and "Hands up. Don't shoot." And the next day we are supposed to go to work, business as usual like nothing has happened. That’s hard to do. How can one concentrate on the work task at hand when you are constantly thinking about the racial injustice that continues to happen to our people the moment you step out of the office? Being Black in corporate America often means we can’t have a full range of emotions, however, you need an outlet even in the workplace. Though life has its challenges for all people and we all have different stresses, the added pressure that racial injustice uniquely presents to people of color is not only life-threatening but often systematically justified.

My company is a good example of an organization that provides an outlet for employees to share their thoughts and feelings in the workplace. The organization understands that if you want to retain top talent, employees have to feel like they belong. Instead of creating separate affinity groups, my company has created one platform for employees to learn and share their feelings about what is happening in the world today, good, bad, or indifferent. The group discusses topics that positively and negatively affect employees. This group is not just for people of color but open to everyone creating a more inclusive work environment.

Employees benefit from affinity groups because it allows them to keep it real in the workplace about what is going on in the world without the feeling of being reprimanded or retaliated against for something you may have said. You may not fully understand what your colleagues are going through, however, it’s important to know that the emotions you have been feeling are relatable to so many others that you interact with daily. Employees should be comfortable in the workplace while working towards a common mission. If your organization does not have an affinity group, think about creating one so that employees can reap the benefits of coming together to discuss and learn from each other in a meaningful way.

My article was originally published in Black in HR magazine, Summer 2021.

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